Crashing waves, a limitless horizon, rocky cliffs, and a fresh breeze converge to paint a picture of an adventure by the sea. But for those of us whose favorite excursion companion travels on four legs, a seaside outing will always be incomplete without our dog. So while there are nearly endless ways to discover coastal America, we’ve pared it down to the 15 top dog-friendly outings so your furry BFF can photobomb all of your scenic photos.
There’s a catch, though. While it’s easy to fall into the "pack up and go" mentality, there are special considerations to keep in mind when your pup is joining. You can no longer get away with carrying just a water bottle and a general knowledge of the route planned. Think about the unique needs of a companion that doesn’t have protective shoes, any knowledge of what’s ahead, or an effective way to cool off quickly. Packing a collapsible bowl, a leash system that you’re both used to using, treats, and general first aid is a solid start.
Additionally, even on dog-friendly trails, there are always those that wish you had left your dog behind. It’s simple: a well-socialized, highly trained, exhausted dog is happiest. But that should never come at the expense of others’ abilities to enjoy the trail. Having realistic expectations of your dog and a patient outlook are critical factors to ensure positive experiences for all.
Last and certainly not least, always practice the principles of Leave No Trace. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us. And whoever still has the audacity to keep leaving green poop baggies on the side of the trail…get outta here.
1. Ka’anapail Beach Walk (Maui, HI): 6 miles | Virtually no elevation change
This well-manicured boardwalk meanders along through glitzy Maui resorts, so although you’ll be hard-pressed to find a great spot to let your dog frolic in the waves, there’s still plenty to sniff and explore together.
2. Sea to Summit Hike (Squamish, BC): 4.6 miles | 2,900-foot elevation gain
This one is not for the faint of heart (or for the old, treat-loving pup). A steep, adventurous trail leads to spectacular views and the possibility of you and your pup downloading on the gondola if hiking back down feels like too much.
3. Turtleback Mountain Preserve (Orcas Island, WA): 8 miles | 800-foot elevation gain
On a clear day, the winding, scenic trails of Turtleback Mountain Preserve provide numerous panoramic views over the San Juan Islands and Salish Sea.
4. Neahkahnie Mountain Hike (Northern Coast, OR): 4 miles | 1,200-foot elevation gain
From its location in Oswald West State Park, Neahkahnie offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Spectacular wildflowers line the trail at the beginning and the end, while the middle section travels through a dense Sitka spruce forest.
5. Cape Lookout Hiking Trail (Northern Coast, OR): 4.8 miles | 440-foot elevation gain
Between a dense forest of Sitka spruce and a 400-foot cliff edge hikers can see stunning vertical views of deep green old-growth forest and the breathtaking Pacific horizon.
6. Cape Falcon Hike (Northern Coast, OR): 5 miles | 200-foot elevation gain
This hike is a truly majestic journey through some of the Northwest’s best preserved old-growth coastal forests. In few other places will you see Sitka spruce and western redcedar on such scale. Prepare for muddy paws!
7. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor (Southern Coast, OR)
Come ready to explore a wide range of hikes. Visitors will find a rugged coast with seemingly endless viewpoints of offshore sea stacks topped with old-growth Sitka spruce. There are dozens of nestled coves and beaches, and some stretches are only accessible at low tide.
8. Lands End Coastal Trail (San Francisco, CA): 2.8 miles | 125-foot elevation gain
This iconic hike offers spectacular views of the Golden Gate, the Marin Headlands and the waters of the Pacific while offering easy urban access to the Golden Gate’s rugged southern edge.
9. Bean Lake and Bear Lake (Greater Lake Superior, MI) | 6 miles
While not technically a coast, the Great Lakes can seem oceanic, and this adventure is not to be missed. The trail quickly ascends up a moderate ridge and opens up to views of Lake Superior before linking to Bean and Bear for an excellent day hike.
10. Cathedral of Palms Trail (Northwest Gulf Coast, FL): 6.2 miles | Virtually no elevation change
A combination of firebreaks and access roads intertwine and ultimately lead you to the marked trail, which takes you back in time to old Florida. A GPS is highly recommended on this hike because it is easy to get turned around.
11. Turtle Mound (Central Atlantic Coast, FL)
While more of a walkabout than a hike, the mound is located on the narrow peninsular piece of land that runs along the Atlantic and the Indian River. This means you'll have spectacular 360-degree views from river to ocean from the top of the mound.
12. Fenwick Island State Park (Atlantic Coast, DE): 3 beachy miles
Fenwick Island State Park is characterized by relative tranquility (compared to Bethany, Rehoboth, and Ocean City) and soft sand on the Atlantic Ocean. Its noticeable lack of development is alluring; Fenwick’s windswept dunes and tall sea grass are a lovely sight.
13. Assateague Island National Seashore (Atlantic Coast, MD)
This amazing stretch of preserved seashore is located off the Delmarva Peninsula. Take a day or two to explore over 35 miles of pristine barrier island beaches, marshes, and forest, but make sure you read all of the pet rules—they’re relatively restrictive.
14. Ocean Path (Acadia, ME): 2 miles | 100-foot elevation gain
Meander along the southeast coast of Acadia National Park's Mount Desert Island, enjoying the highlights of the Park Loop Road and Sand Beach at the end of the trail.
15. Ship Harbor Trail (Acadia, ME): 1.4 miles | 225-foot elevation gain
On the other side of Acadia Park’s Mount Desert Island, hike a figure-eight loop along the southwest coast. The entire trail is only 1.8 miles, but those who enjoy bird watching or tide pool exploring will be able to spend hours here. As always, be very familiar with where your pet can and can’t go.